SPARTA, Ky. –Matt Crafton finished third Friday night in his Nationwide Series debut in his first opportunity to drive a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. The finish was no surprise, given his talent; more unusual was how long it took Crafton to get behind the wheel of a Nationwide car.
Crafton has had NNS offers in the past. He was simply waiting for the right offer, and this one came together with the help of sponsors Menards and Rheem.
John Menard, founder of the home-improvement retailer, lobbied for Crafton. So did son Paul Menard, a full-time Sprint Cup driver for RCR and an occasional driver of the No. 33 Nationwide ride Crafton took to a podium finish on Friday.
Menards sponsors Crafton’s No. 88 ThorSport Toyota in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where Crafton currently leads the points standings. Aggressive on the track, Crafton was the very model of patience when it came to delaying his NNS debut until the time was right.
“I guess I was picky,” he acknowledged after the race. “I’ve had the opportunity to go run Nationwide cars, and you’re going to run 15th at best. I would rather go Truck racing and know that I can win — win races and win championships.
“That means a lot more to me. At the end of the day, to run 15th to 40th in a Nationwide race — that doesn’t matter to me… I wanted to drive something good, and it came down to Menards making this happen.”